Tag Archives: 4e

WotC Discontinues D&D Minis

Hm, that’s sad news – the prepainted plastic D&D minis were a great idea and were the only thing I still buy from WotC.  My gaming group has a whole trunk full of them, and we don’t play the actual minis game or 4e, we use them for battlemaps for a lot of games.  I still have old pewter minis from like 15 years ago I’ve never gotten around to painting, and I don’t want to have to.

It’s also strange news – so what will they be doing instead?  In the same article, they proudly announce their latest dungeon tiles product, which it would seem you’d need minis for.  You could do counters, and it sounds like they are putting some out, but there’s no profit in that.  Issuing counters is a “we know you have to have something so here it is the cheapest way we could make them, mostly for free” kind of play.

Do they think they’re going to get their virtual table working and declare “all gaming is virtual now, death to the tabletop?”  No – not just because they’ll never get the virtual tabletop working, but because they’re still selling cards and whatnot too, and pushing Encounters, which all are tied to tabletop.

Are they going to partner with someone else to do them?  If so, this is a ham-handed way of announcing it; also, WotC’s model has been “pull it all in house” since the development of 4e, moving it back out would be an unprecedented shift in strategy.

Are they getting more expensive to produce as fewer 10 year olds are willing to be exposed to toxic fumes even in China or wherever?  Seems like they’d just up the price or put fewer in a box if that were the case.

Are they planning to change the sales model (sell non-randomized or singles)?  Again, this is a very bad way of announcing that – you don’t say “product terminated” if you’re just changing the model.

Are they just not selling well, so they don’t really give a shit how it fits into the product strategy or game experience?  Maybe.  They seem to be understaffed and floundering. I suspect this is the only reason that makes sense – the margin is down and so they’re canceling them, and they don’t have the time or people or energy to bother about product strategy.Sure, they’re adding the cards, but that can be done with excess staff etc. from WotC’s card game lines.

Even with the rumors going around that what we’re seeing is rampup to a 5e – and it makes sense, the cycle’s been like 3e – put out 3e, fairly quickly put out 3.5e, fire most of your staff, trickle out products and begin on a new edition.  They put out 4e, put out Essentials (4.5e) fairly quickly and fired most of their staff… But even if that were true, why would discontinuing minis fit into that plan?

[Edit: I have seen Reaper’s prepainted plastic minis line but they don’t have many of them.  And apparently to be more ‘retail friendly’ they just changed their name to “Hobby-Q”.]

4e D&D Goes Full Retard

Well, I figured it was a matter of time when I saw them in a game of the new Gamma World being run at a local game shop.  D&D 4e now gets collectible cards.  Yep, you buy booster packs with cards of varying rarities, construct a deck, and use them along with your D&D character to give you all kinds of bonuses and whatnot.  It’s a desperate attempt to convert D&D into a Magic: The Gathering kind of revenue stream.

Oh, they’re not “mandatory”, they say (except for D&D Organized Play games of course).  You can show up and not have this super cool character boost.  So of course, the more you spend the better your character is. Perfect.

It’s more gamist dreck.  We shouldn’t be surprised. 4e powers have already given up on trying to have any in-game-world justification.  “I get to reroll this saving throw… Because I have a card that says so!” And they’ve been careful to remove any oversight by DMs as to what rules/powers/etc. are allowed in the game, which is convenient when new rules can be thrown out on cards DMs and other players don’t have access to.

I would never, under any circumstances, allow the use of these in any game I ever ran.  Essentials had somewhat tempted me to consider looking at 4e again, but this confirms to me “never mind, they are intent on running the concept behind a roleplaying game into the ground, then peeing on it, then stomping on it, then running off squealing.”

It’s antithetical to:

  • Simulation
  • DM-led dramatic pacing
  • Fairness

Yay.  Unfortunately this really makes 4e D&D cross the line.  They should have listened to Robert Downey Jr’s advice – you never go full retard.

[Edit: For all those out there saying “Well but the cards, you could use them as DM-given bennies or as a common deck or something and then they’re not bad” – well, no shit, Sherlocks.  But if you would bother to go read the actual Wizards of the Coast link on how the cards are to be used, that’s not their intended use and the use that WotC will be enforcing in Organized Play.  Decks are per-character, player-provided, and constructed, EXACTLY like having a Magic: the Gathering deck as part of your character sheet.  I know you wish that’s not the case, I know I do, and maybe you will be using them differently, but that’s not a reason that WotC’s intended use isn’t a painful distortion of RPGs.]

Open Gaming Triumphs In The End

Back in 2008, Mike Mearls wrote about whether open gaming had been a success… Right before Wizards pulled the plug on it.  Death to open gaming was their clear intent, especially when they added a clause to the new very non-open GSL forbidding use of the OGL by people looking to use the GSL.

And now, by Wizards’ own  numbers, the people playing D&D has gone from 6 million in 2007 to 1.5 million now.  So is D&D dying?

Grognardia brought to my attention this post by Ryan Dancey (archtiect of the OGL) on the Paizo forums about his view of how the OGL succeeded.

In the end, D&D isn’t dying – it’s free.  Hasbro can jack with it now all they want, but it was freed once and for all by Dancey, and so Paizo and the OSR and everyone else can play D&D and spread it far and wide, regardless of what kid film licensed property some suit wants to push this year.

Let Hasbro make all the soda and tennis shoes they want, and we get to play D&D and safely disregard whatever flavor of the month they are peddling.  Power to the people!

DDI Poops On Your Head Again

Heh, I guess they were worried that the chronic history of failure surrounding the D&D Digital Initiative was starting to fade.  So guess what!  The one usable piece of the DDI, the Character Builder, is being converted over into a Web app so that you can’t use it without still having a subscription.

The old one was a desktop app, so if you stopped paying WotC you could still use it and your old characters, just not get new rules updates and whatnot.  Well, that’s not a hardcore enough revenue stream.  So the new one is in Silverlight, is only delivered as a Web app, and will only save your characters to the cloud – NOT to your PC. And of course they plan to “mine your data continuously.”

That’s some bullshit right there.  And funnily enough it’s quite relevant to my real world life – this week, my company’s rolling out a Silverlight application people use to write code in.  But since we don’t hate our customers, we allow it to be installed out of browser, and also allow code to be saved to the cloud or to the user’s desktop.  It’s trivial to do – the only reason NOT to do it is if you want the people using your app to be completely dependent on you, and not be able to use it unless they keep paying you money.  Which is obviously the case.  Oh, and to prevent people from sharing it; I’m sure the plan is to force more people to buy subscriptions.

Fans are sad.  But they keep playing 4e!  Joke’s on you! You’re the enabler in this abusive relationship.  From the GSL to pulling all PDFs to the DDI, WotC has shown its clear disregard for its customers as anything other than a source of money to squeeze.  One might think that would backfire at some point.  But some people like being dependent I guess…


The New Gamma World

OK, we all know I’m a 4e hater so just take this in that spirit.  I was prepared to not buy but not hate on the new Gamma World.  But I saw it being played in a game store today and noticed that they sell card “booster packs,” randomized and with “rares” just like Magic cards or whatnot, to players.

A stack of cards for random effects comes in the game box.  But if you buy your own, you can construct your own “player deck” of mutation powers from them.  Now, this is brilliant from a revenue stream point of view.  They have always made great bank from CCGs and this means you can convert RPGs into that kind of a stream.  But something in me balks at “players that spend the most money do better.”  Maybe I’m just being old and grumpy. But I don’t like it in computer games either, the new “micropayments” where you can pay RL cash for better weapons or whatnot.  Of course, I think the South Korean economy pretty much runs on that now, maybe it’s the wave of the future.

I didn’t actually like the old Gamma World – I played it once with Jim Ward GMing, no less, and its goofy and pointlessly random nature really put me off (I don’t mind that per se, I like Paranoia, for example, but there seemed to be a disjoint between the tone and the results).  So it’s not like this is ruining memories from my youth or whatnot.  I don’t know, I put my couple thousand dollars into Magic and then I swore it off, so maybe that’s the problem.  Am I just being a grumpy grognard?  Or what?

Reexamining the Dungeon?

There’s an interesting post from Robert Schwalb about the rut 4e adventure design has gotten itself into.  The comments are pretty interesting, too.

I hated the ‘delve’ format when it came out for 3.5e.  I read one adventure using it, said “WTF,” and just ran out of Dungeon after that.   And now I realize why!  System matters, and format and presentation matter.  These things encourage specific behaviors, and Rob seems to somewhat understand this – hence his post in the first place, he sees that the stultifying encounter description format is in practice encouraging frighteningly homogeneous slogs of encounters; it even influences larger dungeon design and cuts out page count and time for other secondary concerns like “story.”

But then of course Rob gets all offended at Landon saying in the comments that 4e’s mechanized approach has sacrificed organic feel and story at the altar of artificiality and predictability.  Rob says “Well but there was wealth by level, and CRs, in 3e!”  Yes, but (almost) no one used those as more than a suggestion. Formalizing that into “treasure parcels” and “XP budgets” is another huge step – rather than just having a guideline to help you understand “how much is this encounter likely to kick your PC’s asses” or “about how much loot will adventures and whatnot assume the PCs have” it is a lot different than having a mandatory prescription for it.  And 4e in general is much more hostile to “just throw that rule out if you don’t like it” – you can say you can do that, but the book certainly doesn’t encourage it, and a tightly interlocking set of rules like that makes it difficult.  When you read 4e, it clearly implies “You will do it this way.”  Sure, apparently in later 4e books there are “alternate options” that are less rigid, but the game has set the general tone already.  Just the statement that you need a supplement to give you an option for randomized treasure to replace the treasure parcel rule is fundamentally demented and indicative of the obsessive-compulsive lawyer mindset that 4e has become.  In previous editions, whether there was a rule for it in a book or not, there was more of an understanding that “these are suggestions, use them if it makes your life easier as a DM.”  They’ve done away with that, and now they get all surprised when story content shrinks and combat is seen as mandatory.  You reap what you sow.  If you present your game as a set of law books, then everyone starts acting like lawyers.  Designers in most fields understand this.

I’m sure it’s not their intention for that to happen – but it’s the natural conclusion of how 4e is framed.  There’s some bad natural conclusions to how 3e is framed too.  But for me – I play for the story, for the inter-character interaction, for the immersion – and so I see that 4e is a hostile environment to that.  4e lovers will pop out of the woodwork and say “NO IT’S NOT I ROLEPLAY IN IT” but you have a lot of articles like this by actual 4e designers that recognize this is happening and are even starting to understand the reasons.  You “can” create a story in 4e, but its nature is slowly discouraging that in players, play groups, adventure writers, and eventually that vicious circle spreads like a cancer through the hobby.  If I was more into the combat part of D&D, and the new version downplayed combat and had sloppy rules for it and was presented in a fashion that would encourage less and less combat encounters over time, I’d be similarly upset.

When I design a location/adventure encounter, do you know what I put in it?

Whatever the fuck I want to.

See, isn’t that easy?

It makes me sad that these otherwise talented adventure writers are trying so hard to innovate within the bizarre restricted environment that the tactical encounter format dictates.  “Maybe if we reorganize each tightly budgeted room as sectors…”  No one is putting the restriction on you but yourselves!  Rise up and cast off your chains!

Pathfinder and 4e Tied In Sales!

ICv2’s latest sales channel reports indicate something very surprising – that Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder are tied for #1 in hobby sales!  They’re followed by Warhammer Fantasy, Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader, and Dresden Files.

That’s pretty amazing, that a small company could rise to rival the historical keeper of D&D in such a short amount of time, and it’s a testament to the super hard work and high quality Paizo puts into their Pathfinder releases, and that they “get” what makes D&D great – it’s the adventures, stupid.

Of course these numbers aren’t based on unobtainable internal numbers and don’t include a variety of channels, it’s hobby stores/distributors only – DDI and Paizo’s subscriptions wouldn’t be included, for example – but it’s extremely notable.

Not only this, but hobby game sales are on the rise even while video game sales slump.